How Not to Be a Grumpy Old Man – Or Woman

We can all work on our communication skills:

I suppose it is not too late if you are still wondering what New Year’s resolution you might make. Well, as my title indicates, seeking to minimise as much as possible what many people turn into over time – a grumpy old man or woman – could be a real goer.

Of course sadly some folks do not turn into this over time – it seems they always have been grumpy! But old age can see an increase in this. And the obvious solution for the believer is to seek to be as Christlike and Spirit-led as possible. That is the ultimate antidote for most of our problems!

Putting Christ first in all things and saying no to self is the main way we press ahead in the Christian life and is the main way we can avoid heading into grumpitude, if I can coin a term here. But there are also other practical things we can seek to do as well.

The Christian communicator

One thing we all can work on is being much more careful in how we speak, how we write, how we read, and how we listen. So many problems arise when we do not seek to excel in these areas. Daily conflicts and arguments occur when we do not take great care in these matters, and much of our grumpitude can stem from this.

We all should be concerned about the importance of good communication – Christians included. In fact, this is especially crucial for the Christian, since we have been entrusted with the gospel message that we are meant to share far and wide. And that involves communicating. That involves using words. That involves making ourselves as clearly understood as possible.

Yes, I know, our life should be a witness as well. But it is not an either/or – it is a both/and. We MUST share the gospel with words, but our lives should back up and reflect what we are saying. Paul in Romans 10:14-15 speaks to this:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

Some years ago I penned a whole article on this:

When I put up a post, say on the social media – even a very short post – I try very hard to make sure it clearly says what I intend it to say so it will not unnecessarily be misunderstood. Yet it always amazes me how often someone will come along and totally miss the point of what I am saying, or totally misconstrue it.

Worse yet, they will attack what they thought I said instead of what I actually said. This happens far too often. The truth is, we should be just as careful in our reading and listening as we are in our speaking and writing. Scripture speaks to this matter quite often.

James for example puts it this way: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Sadly we usually reverse the order here. And there are plenty of Proverbs that address this matter. Here are just a few of them:

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 17:27-28 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

So if you do not want to turn into a grumpy old man – or to become a fool – then learn how to curb your tongue. And learn how to listen and read better. Just imagine how many unnecessary arguments and fights could be avoided if we followed these commands. And they are indeed commands, not mere advice!

One example of this unwanted communication conflict which I have discussed a few times here recently has to do with some posts I shared, urging folks to daily read their Bibles. Nothing controversial there I would have thought! For example, I simply suggested even ten minutes a day would be a step in the right direction for those who are having troubles in regularly reading the Word.

Yet a number of critics managed to once again misunderstand what I was saying. My aim was to especially target the countless Christians who do NOT daily read the Word – some may hardly read it at all. And some have never read all 66 books of the Bible. These believers are the ones I had in mind.

Yet a number of folks took umbrage at this, accusing me of telling folks that they should rush through their reading of Scripture, etc. Good grief. I said nothing of the kind. I merely wanted to encourage those who are not reading the Bible, or are reading it very seldom and sporadically, to get into some sort of daily habit. Even if it is only ten minutes, that would be a good start.

I nowhere insisted that it only be ten minutes – the more time the better of course. And I have also often said we can have various reading speeds. We can do slower, more careful deep study of a passage or chapter, while we also have a more normal perusal in our daily Bible reading plan. The fact that I need to keep repeating these obvious things makes me wonder about some folks, and why they have trouble getting what I am saying.

Perhaps some might need to take a remedial reading course. Or maybe they need to learn a bit about basic logic. Or maybe they just need to read things through more than once to make sure they are getting what the author has intended. There is much that we can do here to improve our reading and comprehension skills.

But bear in mind that there can be other aspects to all this. In the Bible we have a prime example of good words being twisted – and for evil ends. And this was not because the one doing this has poor reading and understanding ability. In this case it was a deliberate distortion of what was being said in order to get a really bad outcome.

You should know by now who I refer to. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, three times the devil wantonly misquoted Scripture. Thankfully Jesus responded with what the Word of God really states. You can read all about this exchange in Matthew 4:1-11.

So in some cases (but not all), certain folks who are misconstruing and perverting your words are doing it not because they are a bit thick, or are sloppy readers, but because they are allowing Satan to use them for his own evil ends. So we all must be on guard here. Not being careful in our reading and understanding can indeed be sinful.

Especially now with the social media where so much misunderstanding and distortion of things happens so very often, we really do need to take care. Before rushing off to pick a fight with someone, or seeking to “correct” them, we need to make sure we actually have tried our best to understand what they have said.

And sometimes we just have to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Things like satire for example are not always clearly picked up on the social media. Sometimes a person will say something quite outrageous, and I really am not sure if he is being serious or is being satirical. In those cases, I will usually hold off on replying, and hope to eventually learn just where this person is at.

Much more can be said about all this. For example, we must ensure that we always try to read everything in context. This should certainly be true of our Bible reading, but it also should be true of our exchanges with others on the social media and elsewhere.

And for someone like me, a writer, I always seek to take special care in my articles. I read them and reread them, hoping to see if anything is unclear or ambiguous or confusing before I publish a piece. I try to think how my audience might read it, dealing ahead of time with any unnecessary objections they might raise, and so on.

If we work on these sorts of communication skills (both in giving and receiving) we can go a long way in avoiding growing up to become a grumpy old man or woman. We can go a long way, in other words, in being much more Christlike, and being a much better Christian witness.

[1537 words]

2 Replies to “How Not to Be a Grumpy Old Man – Or Woman”

  1. Unfortunately, though, in order to make an omelette, you need to break eggs sometimes! Once upon a time, before my retirement, I was a dreadful old curmudgeonly matron when it came to some of my junior nurses. One incident in particular comes to mind. Some of the ward sisters were all for imposing ridiculous, unclinical limits and strictures on treating patients with HIV and AIDS, and denying them care. Absolutely not, I responded sternly. As nurses, it is our professional obligation to provide healthcare and prudently care for the weak and vulnerable. And as a Catholic, to provide palliative and analgesic care and minister to them likewise, because otherwise, the consequences would have driven those patients into the deathmongering arms of the euthanasia lobby. As for being grumpy, edifying others may lead to that accusation, but as you probably know yourself from past experience, sometimes it is necessary!

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